A lot of people (more often young) see their first rock band play on stage, whether this be live or some other medium, and decide they want to be involved in making music in that way. However, they aren’t sure which instrument to play, and so I’m going to discuss the implications and learning curves of various instruments you might see in a band (Disclaimer: I dabble in all of these but am a master of none).
The vocalist is more often than not the band’s front man. As a vocalist, you would need to be prepared to be focused on by media and fans, as well as feel comfortable being the center of attention when it comes to actually performing. In the least superficial way possible, I must say that being a fairly good-looking vocalist will help your band get a little bit more publicity than it otherwise might, but that isn’t to say that looks are anywhere near as important as actually having good vocals.
In terms of the learning curve with vocals, this largely depends on the individual. If you are naturally tone-deaf, obviously you have bigger hurtles to overcome than someone who is naturally very gifted and has been singing their entire life. I’m not going to say much else about vocals because it has been/ will be covered in other posts.
Guitarists generally come in second when it comes to receiving attention. As a guitarist, you have the possibility of playing lead or rhythm guitar, but you may have to play both at times (not at the same exact time obviously). Rhythm means exactly what it sounds like; this will mostly be playing continuous chords to the beat of the song, and is usually less technically demanding. Lead guitarists on the other hand usually need to be a little bit quicker with their fingers as they often play some sort of melody with the guitar which can be very complicated depending on the genre of music and the specific song. Lead guitarists are also often the ones performing the solos.
When it comes to learning the guitar, the curve looks something like this:
(Vertical Axis = Ability, Horizontal Axis = Time/Practice)
Towards the beginning of your training, the guitar can be physical painful to your fingers, and many people will struggle simply to coordinate their hands to shape the chords they want or work in conjunction with each other while strumming. As time progresses though, these things become easier and easier to the point where they are second nature, and learning new songs simply becomes looking them up online and practicing for a short while. This is the center of the graph. The top simply flattens off because the instrument is difficult to master.
Basses are often unappreciated, which is why they are generally less desirable to play. However, they are very important to the bands functionality. The basses job is to provide a sense of pulse through the rhythm of their notes, but also a sense of harmony with the notes themselves. While the bass still ultimately follows the beat of the drum, the bass is key to adding a sense of rhythm to the music. While this isn’t the most glamorous job and you won’t receive much recognition, it is invaluable.
The learning curve of the bass is much like the guitar, but starts off a bit steeper than the guitar’s graph. This is because, while the pain may still be present in your fingers, basses only have four strings and bassists don’t rely on chords and complicated riffs as much as guitarists do. This makes the bass a slightly easier instrument to pick up, but like any instrument, it would still be hard to master.
Drums are essentially the heart of the band. While drummer’s are possibly the least (or second least after basses) noticed band members (the drummer is literally the farthest back person on stage), their role is arguably the most important. Keeping the beat allows the entire band to stay together and without a good, solid beat, the foundation of the band is basically gone, making it very difficult to stay together. The role of the drummer is one that would be sought after by those who want to be in control and feel they can take on a large responsibility.
The learning curve of the drums is a bit different than the other band instruments. For those that are rhythmically inclined, drums should be fairly easy to pick up. Playing a basic beat to a song should take a only a couple hours of practice, but the more advanced of songs you being to play, the harder and harder it gets. Becoming a drum expert requires intense focus and whole-body coordination.
Now that I’ve went over the most basic band instrument’s, the decision of which to play is entirely yours.